Dear Friends of Shepherd Neame,
Firstly, I would like to once again offer my sincere thanks for your continued support in these challenging times.
As you will be aware, as part of its ongoing phased approach to lifting lockdown measures, the Government has today (June 23) confirmed that all pubs will be able to reopen from July 4. We very much welcome this announcement, which provides much needed clarity for our business, and for the beer and pub sector.
We are also grateful that the Government has listened to our industry’s calls for a change in social distancing guidance from the 2-metre rule, and today announced that it will introduce a ‘1-metre-plus’ approach, similar to that used in many countries across the world, with other mitigation measures in place. This will make it more operationally and financially viable for us to begin reopening our pubs from July 4.
Our mission is clear: to protect our team members and reassure customers they are safe in our pubs, while still ensuring they enjoy an authentic and engaging experience in our distinctive and individual pub environments.
We still need to review the detail of the Government guidance for our industry, but we have already begun our preparations for reopening. This has involved significant investment in extensive protective measures for our pubs, including the following:
- Infrared thermometers for all pubs to allow temperature checks for team members ahead of every shift
- New safety signage for all pubs to reassure and inform, including floor stickers to indicate social distancing requirements. This signage is being sourced locally from our Charity of the Year Royal British Legion Industries.
- Till screens installed across our managed estate
- Physical screens introduced between seating in some of our managed pubs
- Additional mobile PIN-entry devices issued across our managed estate to allow more contactless and card payment at the table
- Hand sanitiser dispense stations across our managed estate
- 3,000 washable face masks for team members in our managed estate, sourced locally from Sittingbourne firm Tillett Racing Seats
We will also be introducing some temporary changes to the way we operate our managed estate, including:
- Seated table service only, which will reduce capacity numbers
- Tables removed/spaced out in line with Government guidelines
- Single entrance and exit points to the pubs
- One in, one out system for pubs with smaller toilet space
- Introduction of single-use recyclable paper menus
- All condiments removed from tables and replaced with ramekins when requested
- Cutlery taken to customers by our team members
- Increased cleaning regime, with focus on high touch points
- No standing at the bar, and drinks instead provided by table service in the bar area
We will also be asking customers in our managed estate to make some small changes to help us stay safe and stay open:
- Pre-book a table
- Check menus online in advance
- Pay by card
- Use the sanitisation points regularly to minimise the chances of infection
We have yet to see the details of the required customer registration process when arriving at the pub or when booking online.
In order to protect our customers and team members, we propose to reopen our managed estate on a phased basis and expect to reopen at least two thirds of our pubs by the end of July. This will allow us to evaluate our approach and collect feedback and learnings throughout the process, to identify best practice.
We currently plan to open 40 pubs and at least 150 tenanted pubs as soon as possible. The following managed pubs will open on July 4: Bell Hotel, Sandwich; Botany Bay Hotel, Kingsgate; Britannia, Guildford; Marine Hotel, Whitstable; Minnis Bay Bar and Brasserie; Pier Five Bar and Kitchen, Chatham; Royal Albion Hotel, Broadstairs; Royal, Tankerton; Ship and Trades, Chatham; Spitfire, Kings Hill; The Sun, Faversham; Woolpack, Banstead, Conningbrook Hotel, Ashford. Please look at our website for regular updates on specific sites.
During the reopening phase it will take a considerable period of time for our supply chains to normalise and therefore our managed pubs will offer a reduced menu. All menus will be available to view on the pub’s website before reopening.
We recognise that many of our customers will feel apprehensive about returning to the pub, while others will feel more comfortable. We are taking care to try and accommodate all attitudes in our plans for reopening, and would ask for tolerance both to our team members and to each other. To help customers navigate the changes to their Shepherd Neame experience in our managed pubs, we have put together this guide.
Many of our licensees will also be introducing similar measures in their pubs to ensure the safety of their team members and customers.
As you know, when lockdown came into effect we acted quickly and cancelled all pub rent for our licensees. To date, we have now provided over £2.5 million of financial support through the cancellation of all rent during the shutdown period. Last week we announced further significant rental concessions over the next few months, to allow a phased recovery for licensees from the current crisis.
In addition to this financial support, and the reopening signage and thermometers previously mentioned, we are also providing Covid-19 risk assessment templates to help licensees reopen safely, and assistance in dealing with unusable beer. Detailed guidance and business support has also been offered by our head office team, along with a regular newsletter.
In light of the social distancing guidance, reopening our estate while ensuring your visit is safe and enjoyable poses many challenges, but please let me assure you that we are doing everything in our power to find creative, practical solutions.
We need you to stay safe to stay open.
I look forward to welcoming you back to our pubs very soon.
With my thanks and very best wishes
Shepherd Neame Chief Executive